Meet Our Pack
Dr. Margaret E. Gruen
DVM, MVPH, PhD, DACVB, Fear Free Certified
Principal Investigator, Associate Professor of Behavioral Medicine
2021-22 Goodnight Early Career Innovator
Dr. Gruen completed her veterinary degree at the University of Illinois. She came to North Carolina State University for an internship followed by a residency in veterinary behavior. She completed a Masters in Veterinary Public Health and became a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. After a few years on the faculty at NC State, she decided to pursue a PhD with a focus on understanding the behaviors associated with pain in cats with naturally-occurring arthritis. She then spent two years at Duke University, where she co-directed the Canine Cognition Center, and now has returned to North Carolina State University as an Associate Professor of Behavioral Medicine.
- Spontaneous Animal Disease Models
- Human-Animal Interaction; Pain Management; Cognition and Ageing
Affiliations and Certifications
- Comparative Pain Research and Education Center (CPREC)
- International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP)
- International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC)
- Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (DACVB)
- Fear Free Certification
Ilex Starenchak, MBio, LAT
Laboratory Manager & Research Assistant
Ilex received both their Bachelor of Science in Zoology with minors in Cognitive Science and Psychology and their Master of Biology with a focus on Science Communication from NC State University. They have spent their career working in both veterinary medicine and research, with a focus on captive wildlife, animal behavior, and animal welfare. They have extensive experience working with animals of all kinds, with their previous projects investigating captive avian welfare, comparative cognition, and animal communication. In their spare time, they enjoy hiking, birdwatching, spending quality time with their flock, and making music.
Alexandra Dwulit, MSc
Graduate Research Associate
Alex is currently pursuing her PhD in Comparative Biomedical Sciences – Neuroscience, under the supervision of Dr. Margaret Gruen and Dr. Duncan Lascelles, focusing on the relationship between pain, cognition, and affect and the underlying biomarkers of this relationship. She is especially interested in a comparative, translational approach to studying behavior, pain, emotion and cognition and the underlying genetic and neural underpinnings. Prior to her PhD, Alex did her undergraduate degree at the University of Rochester, working in the Canine Cognition Center in Vienna, Austria for a summer, and continued onto her MSc at Utrecht University in the Netherlands in Behavioral Biology. There she completed several internships, looking at the influence of sleep deprivation on behavior, cognition, and neurogenesis in zebra finches, developing a facial pain expression scale for lame horses in locomotion, and piloting a method used to treat PTSD in
humans (EMDR) in dogs and horses. After her master’s, she spent a year working with rhesus macaques at UC Davis looking at the cognitive and emotional underpinnings of neurodegeneration and associated epigenetics. She is excited for the clinical applications of her research, both in the veterinary and human world, and hopes to further the use of non-traditional animal models in translational neuropsychiatry research. In her free time, Alex loves to hike, bake, paint, and travel.
Beth Case, MSc
Beth received her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from Davis and Elkins College and her Master of Science in Zoology from NC State University. She has extensive experience managing clinical studies in cancer treatment, pain management and behavior. In her free time, she enjoys painting, traveling and hiking with her dog.
Kara Moore, MSc
Kara received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Bates College and her Master of Science in Marine Sciences from UC-Santa Cruz. She is excited to begin working on our puppy cognition study in partnership with Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center, which aligns with her past research experience in animal behavior. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, and boating.
Rachel Caddiell, PhD
Rachel has recently completed her PhD under the supervision of Dr. Margaret Gruen and Dr. Kenneth Royal at North Carolina State University in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Rachel investigated whether there are breed differences in dog sensitivity thresholds, as well as the perception and education related to pain in veterinary medicine. Prior to moving to North Carolina, Rachel completed her BSc in Psychology with a Minor in Human-Animal Interactions at The Ohio State University where she contributed to a variety of welfare focused projects across species including dairy cattle, broilers, sheep and swine. From there, she earned her Master of Science in Animal Science from Texas A&M University. Her thesis project examined the impact of environmental enrichment on feedlot cattle behavior, productivity and physiology. In addition to her commitments at the University, Rachel serves as a third-party auditor for Certified Humane, a national non-profit organization created to improve the lives of farm animals by conducting inspections on-farm, and evaluates laying hen operations.
Our Pack Alumni
The Thinking Pets Program
Hope Woods, BA
- Laboratory Manager & Research Assistant, 2019-2022
Dr. Michael Khan
- Post-Doctoral Research Associate, 2020-2022
Dr. Rachael Cunningham
- Post-Doctoral Research Associate, 2020-2021
Summer Veterinary Scholars
|Gabriella Zayas Santiago, 2021||Katie Kurtz, 2020||Jackie Blake, 2019|
|Megan Carson, 2019||Kylie Grady, 2019||Irina Perdew, 2019|